Apology is a basic principle of democracy in South Africa
Helen Zille, tweeted that colonialism was not all bad as it also produced good things like an independent judiciary and health system. Well and good Zille, except that the same judiciary was an instrument of enforcing colonial laws and dispossession. But she must be acknowledged for publicly saying what most whites privately believe. She is a seasoned politician and would know her statements were reckless and misplaced in a country (and by extension continent) battling with the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.
But Zille knew for the fact that in Africa, and South Africa in particular, an apology carries so much weight that not only do we forgive but we also forget. It was therefore expected that having tweeted such a reckless and insane statement she would apologise and the furore that initially met her tweet would die down. After all, South Africa produces a headline grabbing scandal every day.
We were astonished by the hypocrisy that has followed the racist tweet and subsequent apology by Zille. Truth is, when exactly is an apology acceptable in South Africa? At least with regard Zille's tweet we know the EFF and the ANC are not taking the apology as genuine and want her head.
But when should society accept politicians’ apologies and “move on”? It was the self-same ANC that told the country to accept President Jacob Zuma’s lies that he paid for his own private home state. It was the ANC that said it is enough that Zuma broke his oath of office and, you guessed right, apologised. The EFF has bruises to show for trying to fight for that apology to be rejected.
Then there's Bathabile Dlamini. Having mobilised a vigilante of ANC Women's League airheads to defend her she finally accepted the superior logic of the Constitutional Court on the grants scandal. Guess what? She apologises and everyone is expected to accept and move on.
Andile Lungisa in the Nelson Mandela Bay took his apology a step further. After defying the ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe’s call not to stand for the regional leadership contest he penned a heartfelt apology for the things he said about Mantashe but later make it clear that his apology was not for defying Mantashe but for insulting him.
The ANC government in Marikana killed 34 mine workers and simply apologised. No one has been held criminally liable yet.